Last fall, my grandmother cried out for my father in the middle of the night, according to the woman who cared for her in her last few months. That same night, thousands of miles away in Juneau, Alaska, my father awoke to the sound of her voice calling for him.

Everything is connected.

The day Nani died, a beautiful thrush, yellow like the color she always wore, hit our window and perished. The thrush has one of the most beautiful birdsongs in the world and is considered an omen of truth speaking. I have been speaking my truth ever since.

Today is All Soul’s Day, the second Day of the Dead, when people in Mexico and other parts of Central America honor loved ones who have passed away. So it is fitting that Dodging the Rain, beautiful literary journal based out of Galway, Ireland, just published my poem Season of the Crone, written last year about my grandmother.

You can read the poem here, and feliz Día de Muertos!

(scroll down to watch/read)

I am struggling with this blog post. I’ve been wanting to make an important announcement for more than a month now, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. How do you announce you won an award without coming across as bragging? It’s kind of impossible.

The truth is I was totally surprised, thrilled, and humbled when I found out in early April that my poem, “Solstice through Aperture,” placed first in the Alaska statewide poetry contest.

YAY!!!! Okay, back to being humble now…

I have to thank the good folks at Fairbanks Arts Association for hosting the contest, and thank you to Ishmael Hope for reading and blind-judging the poems.

Here is a video from the Fairbanks Arts Association of my reading the winning poem, “Solstice through Aperture,” as well as some of my other poems.

For those of you who prefer to read poetry, I have posted a copy of the poem below.

Thanks for reading/watching!

Featured photo by Fera Photography

You can imagine my delight when Plumtree tavern literary magazine sent me an email to tell me that they included my poem as one of the selected favorites from the past year. And lo and behold, mine was listed first!

I wrote this poem during a walk on one of the coldest, driest days of fall. Sounds muted, nothing stirring, and even the wind was dead. The next day life returned in the first snow.

Enjoy this time of quiet solitude. As Crosby, Stills and Nash say, the darkest hour is right before the dawn.

Featured artwork by Watanabe Seiti

At the edge of the gumdrop forest waits a door to swallow her whole

deep, deeper down the rabbit hole she hopes to lose her mind or find her soul

or a better way back than before.

Perhaps chance upon a homeless camp

tarp and dust pan,

flash backs to that woman & those men you caught with your 22—

old news, that was way back when— squirrels & John Muir wouldn’t even give it a passing glance

by the old growth hemlock & spruce, snow on ground & twisting roots holding down your queen

of hearts, ocean breath & song of thrush, old man’s beard on Dr. Seuss trees & mushroom musk.

If John Muir were a her on this frapcious earth day she’d prefer the form of a cheshire cat

rather than a girl without a dog, 5’5 122 pounds, a perfect rabbit for the hunting hieing through wonderland

& a homeless camp, lichen’s web catching on her hat, rain water pooling under boots,

nibbling at the ice, and at the trail head upon her return, I wonder if John Muir

the man would observe a ladies torn thong strung along a branch as if to offer

a warning… I wonder.

One out of seven jobless, Venezuela size statistics,
but the Tongass is alive, listen—
 
the wilderness so thick, I could lean into this.
No helicopters to spoil, and there’s a 
part of me
 
that likes to do hard things— like fool 
myself
into jumping off this cliff sixty feet
 
into the drink, blue like a California sunset
reflected in a rear view mirror.
 
Hear the birds—  if they were words
they’d say gimme this, gimme that
 
so & so started it, and I don’t want you to die.
Word to your bird baby mama.
 
Oh wild wilderness, why do I love you
so fierce? Is it because I relinquish 
control,
 
is it because you show up in a flooded
beaver dam pool where you can’t tell
 
where the tree ends and its mirror 
begins—
the spider web that clings when you 
least expect it,
 
nurse log kind of love.
If it ain’t a good day I’m cryin’,
 
laughin’ and cryin’ at the same time,
inhaler in my pocket,
 
mask I’m rockin’
‘cause it’s not about me
 
this time— no one lives forever.
A girl cries every night,
 
she don’t want mama to die,
but I don’t wanna let it go yet
 
‘cause there’s still a part of me
that likes to do hard things.
 

Dear Reader,

I hope all of you are finding some good in this surreality we are living in. I don’t know about you, but I have come to appreciate this time to press pause, take a deep breath, reflect, write, read, and connect with family and friends (over various virtual platforms). I’ve gotten more fresh air and exercise than I have in months. I even de-cluttered my room!

Since we’re all in hunker-down mode (I hate that expression), let’s first take a minute to throw some new terms into the hat. My friend suggested we call it “funker-down”. My husband likes to call it a “retreat”. Any other ideas?

Okay, here is some poetry news to pass the quiet. I recently received my latest issue of Third Wednesday magazine in the mail, and saw my poem!

It was inspired by my husband. I’m terrible with my hands.

 

Featured photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Today we drew animals and read

about the Titanic. We drove our cars

slowly— imagine a snail,

then slow it down even more.

Every day is like a Sunday,

like moving underwater,

like when Alaska burned

& smoke circled us in a dream.

What other than a crisis can put you

in the moment, without a past

or future— only a now. Time marked

by bicycle tracks in frozen beach

grass, riding icy mud flats at low tide.

(Here social distancing is a way of life.)

I should cook an elaborate meal,

call my sister, do an online yoga class—

tend to my “medically sensitive” body.

Maybe my heart and my breath

and the breeze will sync up,

and I won’t need my inhaler anymore.

Maybe the tide will wash the beach of snow,

and the sun will seduce the spring.

Because she is of the wilderness, why shouldn’t the rhythm of a thousand hustling feet induce her to run through TSA?

Because when riding an escalator, why shouldn’t she wait for the prettiest step, although it may mean losing Mommy who has alteady gone ahead and landing spread eagle upside down between five metal moving steps?

Because she prefers to pee on dandelions with the sun on her bottom, why shouldn’t she run out of the airplane lavatory with her underwear down around her ankles?

Because she is a magical fairy princess, why shouldn’t she pitch a next-level prima donna hissy fit when she doesn’t get a window seat?

Because she has a voice that bellows off mountains and belies her five years, and a mother who listens and encourages her to speak her truth in a world of men who won’t stop talking, why shouldn’t she use her voice to stand up for her tiny little self— because if she won’t, who will?— even if it means everyone on the plane goes semi-deaf?

Because she appreciates the ways of Miro, why shouldn’t she paint the floor an acrylic abstract masterpiece minutes after getting home from a two day flight?

Because my daughter is a mirror, why shouldn’t I expect her to run a bit feral like her mother?

And because God gave me over the top kids, and maybe I parent a little over the top, too— and because to whom much is given, much is required— why shouldn’t I expect that everything be too wonderful, too stressful, too much work, too satisfying, too unsatisfying, too draining, too hilarious, and too much?

Nature in tandem, aiding and abetting,
Waves smooth as the bodies that chase them,
Perfect symmetry drawn in ocean combers,
And all there is is this moment.
Diet of fish and fruit rendered my body spacious,
Boneless like a jellyfish,
Flesh swimming in skin sun-kissed,
Mermaid hair blonde, waving,
One with the water, anticipating,
Interpreting the swell,
Hop up on the board and let nature propel
Me down the mouth of a blue roaring barrel.
“Let go, let God,”
Letting nature take over,
She shoots me down a perfect comber.
Traveling at the speed of sound,
The world slows down,
And for a moment in the wave
I’m in a frozen glacial cave. 
Shady cover from lusty sun’s tan,
She spits me out like a one-night stand.
What a thrill– I need another
And go back like an abusive lover.
Having tasted euphoria in the green room,
Enlightenment in the break…
If there is a heaven,
I know it’s got waves.